Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Walken grew up in right neighbourhood for his latest role

  • Print

TORONTO -- Christopher Walken had to learn to play the cello to prepare for his new film A Late Quartet, but he was already well-acquainted with the lives of classical musicians from his upbringing in New York City.

"I grew up on the Upper West Side, which really is a kind of mecca for serious music," Walken said at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

"Whole families who perform and teach -- mother, father, kids. They have a great life and when they're not performing and touring, they teach. You know, never a dull moment."

A Late Quartet stars Walken, Catherine Keener, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mark Ivanir as a classical musical ensemble that is thrown into disarray when their leader (Walken) learns he has a debilitating disease.

The problems of the group are further compounded by marital difficulties between the characters played by Keener and Hoffman.

Helmed by first-time director Yaron Zilberman, the story offers a fascinating glimpse into the rigours of the classical music world.

So did the newbie filmmaker feel any nerves working with a cast that has racked up more than a half-dozen Oscar nominations between them?

"Of course, I had jitters. These are incredible actors and so experienced. With the experience comes challenge in a good way, in a constructive way," Zilberman, who previously made the documentary Watermarks, said in a recent interview.

"At the same time, it was a world that I knew so well."

All of the leads underwent serious training to master their musical instruments. The onscreen effect is remarkable: Zilberman says there is only one scene in the film in which a double was used.

Keener -- whose character plays the viola -- says she loves classical music (her ex-husband Dermot Mulroney is a cellist and so is their son), and that Walken's background had an impact on his castmates.

"He definitely set a tone.... You know, 'this is what the neighbourhood's like.'"

Zilberman agrees that Walken emerged as a leader on set.

"Just by the gravitas of his personality, his presence is such that everyone has such respect for him, that it just happens naturally," said the director.

"His contribution also to film history... is so vast and varied that just by that everyone is so respectful. It's like he had an aura about him."

Ivanir -- who plays the quartet's hot-headed lead violinist -- is the least-known of the quartet, but is already receiving raves for his performance.

"(He's) sort of an outsider, you know," says Zilberman when asked what the actor, whose screen credits include 360 and Schindler's List, brought to the film.

"He lives in L.A. and he works in Hollywood, but he's originally from Ukraine and then he moved to Israel. So (he brings) this aspect of someone who's sort of an outsider to the family. He brought that dimension, which is very important for music, but also for the movie... so it added that dimension and that complexity."

Walken's nuanced turn as an avuncular cellist, meanwhile, is garnering Oscar whispers. It's a stark contrast from the villain roles the Deerhunter actor is most well known for.

Says Zilberman: "I knew that he would do an incredible job. I didn't know exactly what it was going to become. So once we met and read the script together I realized that it would be something unique and very emotional."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 27, 2012 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Lawless in the Morning: It's playoff game day

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose flies towards the sun near the Perimeter Highway North and Main St Monday afternoon – See Day 10 for Bryksa’s 30 goose project - May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google